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INTRODUCTION 7 1 Introduction BACKGROUND The approximately 500,000 facilities and associated infrastructure owned by the federal government constitute a portfolio of significant durable public assets that reflect the investment of more than 300 billion tax dollars (NRC, 1998). Ownership of facilities by the federal government carries with it an obligation to act responsibly and to ensure that resources are allocated effectively to sustain that investment. Buildings, or facilities, are complex structures with a number of separate but interrelated components, including walls, roofs, windows/doors, and critical servicing systems such as mechanical, electrical, plumbing, heating, air conditioning, ventilation, communication, and fire safety, among others. Components and systems must perform well individually and in combination with others to optimize the performance of facilities. Inevitably, over time the performance of facilities declines due to aging and wear and tear of components and systems, functional changes, and a variety of other factors. The life of facilities can be optimized, however, through adequate and timely maintenance and repairs. Conversely, delaying or deferring maintenance and repairs can, in the short term, diminish the quality of building services and, in the long term, lead to shortened building life and reduced asset value (APWA, 1992). This concept is illustrated in Figure 1.1 . Deferring needed maintenance indefinitely may ultimately result in significantly higher costs. For example, the steel cladding on a warehouse needs to be painted at scheduled intervals. If the painting, a relatively minor cost, is deferred continually, the cladding will eventually rust and deteriorate, necessitating significant repairs or replacement, at many times the cost of having painted it on schedule. Apart from Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB) Standard Number 6, as amended, deferred maintenance 1 has been defined by the Urban Institute (1994) as âthe extent of maintenance, repair, rehabilitation, etc., that is needed to bring capital assets from a sub-par condition to needed service levelsâ. Generally it can be 1 Deferred maintenance is also known as unfunded maintenance, backlog of maintenance and repair, or unaccomplished maintenance.